Since this article will be focusing a bit on the Oedipus Complex, I want to make sure that everyone has at least a grasp of this psychoanalytical theory. Basically it refers to the relationship between the parents and the children and how the child competes with the opposite sex parent because
" they now realize, for example, that their parents may choose each other over them. The children feel a whole gamut of emotions in response to this affront: from passionate love to equally passionate hate; from jealous, angry, and resentful to frightened, abandoned, and needy. They may scheme to interfere with the exclusive relationship that they now see between their parents, hoping to recreate the sense of being the most important person in the parent’s life, and/or fight for one or the other's attention in the hope of winning them over." (Levy-Warren 4)
However, in video games where a mother character is not present, the a male child(not necessarily a child in age but in relation) may still compete with his father to either prove their worth, save the world, or just because the character hate his father. The commonality of this competition, if you will, between father and son, mother and daughter, or father/mother and son/daughter, may be attributed to the very real relationships between children and parents. Children and parents do not always see eye to eye on various issues, whether it be curfews, food choices, friends, or many others, and often tension is high. While this is not entirely related to the Oedipal complexes, it had a ring of familiarity to it that makes incorporating parent/child strife in video games a relatable element that developers of rpg's incorporate. The more identifiable the player is with the characters, the more likely the game will succeed if it relies heavily on narrative aspects which rpg's do. When I say narrative I refer to the first and sixth definitions Juul mentions in his chapter over fiction within games, "1. Narrative as the presentation of a number of events. 6. Narrative as the way we make sense of the world" (157). It is therefor the sequence of events that shapes how the characters and the players perceive the world and as a result it determines how they react to it.While yes, the role of literary criticism applied to video games is apparently controversial, Nielson makes a good point "There are characters with individual motivations and personal agendas, a mystery to be solved, a whole city to be explored, and histories to uncover that have shaped your character" (170). The relationships between the characters and their father's can be a major influence on a character's development and thus impact the overall story within the game and with rpg's the story just as much as the game play can make or break the game.
First I would like to address Final Fantasy VII and Sephiroth's obsession with his mother (who is and is not his mother) and his hatred for his father. Sephiroth is a hero turned villain when he discovers the experiments that where done on him and believes himself to be a monster and the last of a race that died out a 1000 years ago (More stereotypical elements of rpg's: 1000 year old extinct race and the hero turned villain motif). Early on in the game you are treated to watching Sephiroth "free" his mother from a coorporation. Who he claims as his mother happens to be a head that was stored in a tube. Throughout the game he liberates a couple more pieces of his mother and as fate would have it, he is trying to destroy the world because that is what his mother would have wanted. His father is a crazy scientist named Hojo and it was he who experimented on his son when he was in his real mother's womb (who dies during childbirth) and puts Jenova DNA (the creepy head he carries around) into him while he is gestating thus giving him superhuman strength. He has a deep hatred for Hojo which turns into a hatred for all life in general. After finding out that the Jenova DNA he was fused with comes from a being that tried to destroy the world he embraces his mother's attempt as his life goal and summons a big meteor to smash all life from the world which would include his father Hojo. How he plans to gain his mother's approval since his mother is a head is a bit beyond understanding but it is clear he desires to please his mother at the cost of his father's and all of life's lives. Sephiroth would be a good example of an unsuccessful resolution of the Oedipus complex, since he clearly turns psychopathic and roams around with his mother's head. He never gets to confront Hojo directly and his eerie devotion to his mother and desire to gain her favor fails thanks to a dead girl who he killed at the end of the first disc.
Pictured: Dead girl who saves the world and Sephiroth's signature sword. Infer what you will.
Now that I've given a brief overview of Sephiroth and his origin, lets talk about the fear of castration and why Sephiroth has it. First off, castration anxiety is "a fear of both literal and figurative emasculation...and that his father will also castrate him as a punishment for desiring his mother" (Cherry). Hojo has experimented on Sephiroth since his conception, so a literal castration may be a genuine threat for Sephiroth. In the various games that tie into Final Fantasy 7 and the lore that is found in the game it is revealed that Hojo refuses to answer any questions pertaining to Sephiroth's mother and Sephiroth makes it clear that he has no feelings of familial attachment to Hojo. Hojo, being a typical mad scientist, is always experimenting and thus Sephiroth is more of a super-soldier test subject and less of a son. Hojo through his testing and refusal to give Sephiroth information regarding his mother encourages Sephiroth's castration anxiety. As a result he does not develop into a healthy, stable adult which leads to his descent into insanity when he finds out the truth of his creation. He completely disregards his father, unable to relate to him and because of this he does not develop a super ego to control his impulses and thus blossoms his one minded devotion to carrying out his mother's unfinished task to destroy the world.
Dad? Good luck escaping this father's shadow.
These are just a couple of examples of the many games within the rpg genre that have conflicts between the parents and children and often incorporate Oedipus Complex elements into the narrative. Some other well-known rpg's that have similar stories are Suikoden, The Legend of Dragoon, Star Ocean Till the End of Time, Rogue Galaxy, Infinite Undiscovery Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, Fallout 3, Bioshock, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (more father figure vs pupil), and Red Dead Redemption (occurs mostly at the end of the game). These rpg's, while having varying levels of familial strife, all make use of a father figure as someone the character is trying to compete with even if the role the father plays is not exactly antagonistic.
Here is a fun link with a flow chart for every single rpg ever made.
Works CitedJuul, Jesper. "half-real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. 1st. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011. Print.
Cherry, Kendra. "What is an Oedipal Complex." 2012. http://psychology.about.com/od/oindex/g/def _oedipuscomp.htm. Web. 19 May 2012.
Levy-Warren, Marsha H. Wherefore The Oedipus Complex In Adolescence? Its Relevance, Evolution, And Appearance In Treatment. Studies In Gender & Sexuality 9.4 (2008): 328-348. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 May 2012.
Nielson, Simon Egenfeldt, Jonas Smith, Susana Pajares Tosca. Understanding Video Games: The
Essential Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.